A MAJOR STEP forward in Scottish Government plans to dual the A96 through Moray came with the issuing of a contract notice worth up to £50million.
The move that has delighted campaigners in Moray arrived with the notice published yesterday (Tuesday) relating to a 29-mile section of the route from Auldearn to just east of Fochabers. It follows a £30million design contract awarded earlier this year for the Nairn bypass section of the dualling plan.
Announcing the move Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Keith Brown, said: “This major contract marks a further milestone towards the dualling of the A96 with all the investment and improvements that will bring to the Highland’s and north-east of Scotland.
“The publication of this contract notice marks another significant milestone in a dualling programme that will deliver a number of benefits when completed, including improved journey time and reliability, improved connectivity and improved road safety for all those who use this key artery connecting two of Scotland’s economic hubs.
“With the Scottish Government making major infrastructure investment in projects like the A9, new Queensferry Crossing and recently completed Borders Railway, this contract for the A96 further underlines the significant investment we are making in our transport network across Scotland.”
The new contract is expected to be awarded early next year when design work for the western section with route option assessment work getting under way.
Mr Brown added: “This contract will also provide the successful bidders with steady work for years to come and many more opportunities for small and medium enterprises through subcontracted work, so it will be a boost for the local and national economy.”
Welcoming the move last night the Chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership, John Cowe, said: “I am delighted that the stretch from Auldearn to the east of Fochabers through Moray is next on the agenda – and route options with the ultimate milestone being a dual carriageway from Aberdeen to Inverness.
“I am also very pleased that the lobbying through the Moray Economic Partnership for the Moray stretch to be next has been successful.”
Last night Moray’s parliamentarians also welcomed the announcement, with Angus Robertson MP saying it would help push Moray’s economy “to new levels”. He said: “We have already seen a major amount of early stage work and consultation with communities and the announcement of this major design contract for A96 dualling from Auldearn to east of Fochabers is the next major step in this project.
“It clearly signals the Scottish Government’s commitment to better connecting Scotland’s cities and alongside the major rail improvements also taking place it will undoubtedly push Moray’s economy to new levels in the coming years.”
Meanwhile Richard Lochhead MSP added: “The SNP has made clear commitments to the dualling of the A9 and the A96 and that is amply demonstrated by the publication of this multi-million pound design contract notice.
“The dualling of the A96 in Moray is now closer to reality than ever. There will be challenges along the way – not least with route selection – but overwhelmingly the view expressed to me is that Moray needs this and this announcement is very welcome news indeed.”